Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on February 17, 2023

in History, Philosophy of Freedom

… is from page 88 of Joseph Ellis’s 2001 book, Founding Brothers:

At least at the rhetorical level, the egalitarian principles on which the American revolutionaries had based their war for independence from Great Britain placed slavery on the permanent defensive and gave what seemed at the time a decisive advantage to the antislavery side of any debate.

DBx: Slavery is indeed a stain on America’s history. But it’s a stain on America’s history because America’s history is part of humanity’s history – and humanity’s history is filled with slavery. What distinguished the American revolutionaries was their embrace – some more fully than others – of liberalism, which is a philosophy fundamentally incompatible with slavery.

The American revolutionaries can and should be justly criticized for not taking their liberalism further toward its logical conclusion by abolishing slavery. But they also deserve credit for embracing what was then a new political philosophy the spread and deepening of which was destined to rid humanity of that millennia-long stain on its history.

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